This tiny West Virginia town packs a ton of history

Holding the title of “smallest town in West Virginia,” according to Country Living, Thurmond’s official population is 5. Although today 80% of the town is owned by the National Park Service, 100 years ago that was not the story.

In the Beginning

If not for Captain William D. Thurmond, who received 73 acres of land as payment for his services as a surveyor in 1873, Thurmond may be known as a different name. It was not until 30 years later that Thurmond was incorporated in 1903. Home to the Southside Junction railroad bridge which crosses the New River at the mouth of Dunloup Creek, this locomotive town boomed in its early years. The small town started to see decline around 1917 when roads first started to appear. A short while later, two large fires struck the town occurring in 1922 and in 1930, the latter destroying much of the towns infrastructure, which led to many businesses seeking refuge elsewhere.

50 Years Ago 

Since this small town is within proximity of the New River, Thurmond welcomed the business of Wildwater, a commercial whitewater rafting business in 1968 with open arms. 1987 was a big year for this small West Virginia town. Matewan, a film directed by John Sayles, celebrates the labor organization that took place in the 1920s during the famous mine work stoppages was filmed in Thurmond. Notable sites in the film include, the Historic Thurmond Train Depot, the Main Street of Thurmond, and the Thurmond Union Church. 1987 was also the year that the National Park Service established the protected area known today as the New River Gorge National River.


While Thurmond is not the bustling train town it was in the early 1900s, it is still remembered as such. The Historic Thurmond Depot is owned by the park, which today serves as a passenger stop for Amtrack trains. This Fayette County town still receives its fair share of visitors seeking adventure on the New River.

Have you visited?

This post was last updated on March 17, 2022